It’s been awhile, but I finally found another–black maple (Acer nigrum). Black maple is just about identical to sugar maple barring a couple of traits that stick out to me. One is the leaf. Similar to sugar maple, the leaf margin is entire or smooth (lacks serrations). In contrast to sugar/black maple, it is red maple that has serrated leaf-margins. Black maple’s leaf is like a hybrid between sugar and red maple. It has 3 lobes (like red maple), but has smooth edges. Sugar maple has 5 lobes. The other trait is that the bark seems extremely flaky as it ages, but am unsure about this. Black maple is more commonly found in the mid-west or Lake States where it is drier. This is why it is apparently more tolerant of heat and drought than sugar maple. Other than that, the wood is apparently identical to sugar maple and can be tapped for its sap the same too. Normally, I find this tree in sandy soils or drier ridge-tops. Perhaps where the soil drains better than other places and is drier? Not sure. It’s a mysterious tree for sure in the Catskills. 

black maple leaf is right; sugar maple leaf is left

Ryan Trapani

Director of Forest Services

Catskill Forest Association